Wine Ambassador Dave Lofstrom is all fired up over our recently released dessert wine, Marsanne Doux.
If you ask any of my friends, or pretty much anyone who has talked about wine with me, they will tell you that I am not a fan of dessert wines.
Everything changed in 2012 when I took my first trip to Portugal. Being in the home of Port, I tried a few Ports while I was there. One evening, after a long day of walking, eating and drinking, I tasted a 10 year aged white Port and a tawny Port that had been aged in barrel since 1985. Life for me changed. The play of sweet, fruit, alcohol, oak and acidity danced around my mouth. I was a convert. I realized what dessert wine could be.
When I came to work for Qupé I was surprised and excited to find out that Bob had made a dessert wine from Marsanne. Bob employs a traditional method that is used in France to make a wine called Vin de Paille – translated as “straw wine.” Marsanne and Roussanne are the traditional grapes used to make Vin de Paille in the Rhone. The process is simple, but labor intensive. Grapes are picked and the clusters are dried on straw mats. The idea is to dry out or raisin the grapes so that the sugars increase dramatically. The grapes are then pressed, barreled and fermented into a lovely sweet wine.
In 2011, Bob decided to make a wine in the Vin de Paille style using Marsanne from the Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard. The grapes are picked at normal ripeness and the clusters are laid, in a single layer, in straw filled bins that have holes and slots in them. This allows plenty of air to circulate around the grapes, preventing moisture and mold from forming and allowing the grapes to dry. Picking the grapes at normal ripeness helps maintain the freshness and acidity of the grape. Keeping this acidity will stop the wine from being flabby or cloyingly sweet. The grapes are quickly transported back to the winery in a covered truck. After the grapes arrive at the winery the straw and grape filled bins are placed in a cool and dark room that has been screened off, to prevent bugs from getting to the grapes while they dry. Large fans help to circulate air and the grapes are left alone to dry. After approximately eight weeks the grapes are pressed, whole cluster, and the juice is fermented and barreled for 16 months in neutral oak. Bob named this wine Marsanne Doux, Marsanne referring to the grape that the wine is made from and Doux meaning sweet, in French. Only two and a half barrels of Marsanne Doux was made in this inaugural vintage.
The 2011 Marsanne Doux is lush and smacks of peaches, apricots and honey with lively acidity that keeps it fresh on the palate. Food pairings for the Marsanne Doux is similar to pairings with Sauternes. Foie Gras, Pate, Blue Cheese are all great foods to serve with the Marsanne Doux. Of course, Marsanne Doux can be served on it’s own as a dessert – memorable and delicious.
Be sure to check back here for updates on the 2013 vintage of Marsanne Doux. The grapes are drying right now!